View Full Version : What's a good measure of reliability?

12-23-2004, 09:12 PM
First and foremost, I'm not trying reopen a closed discussion!

What is your benchmark for pistol reliability? X number of fired rounds without stoppage? A percentage of stoppages per number of rounds fired?

I refrain from mentioning brands of pistols. I'm asking a question pertaining to all pistols.

For example, I had a pistol that broke its trigger spring at the 500-600 rnds fired mark (did have significantly more dry fire wear on it though.) The factory replaced the broken part, and had few problems after. Is that a reliable pistol in your opinion(s)?

Have another pistol of different manufacture that has 5000-5500 rnds fired with a single problem due to poorly reloaded ammo. To me, that's reliable.


12-23-2004, 09:14 PM
I think at least 1,000 rounds WITH the ammo you will carry for SD is sufficient.

12-23-2004, 09:37 PM
I know a lot of people who refuse to carry a pistol without at least 1K+ rounds through it.

I like to keep a "carry" gun as a "range" gun for a few months before I try to carry it. Put as many rounds through it as I can (typically 2-3K before I carry her)

Honestly, 1K is enough in my opinion to consider her for carry.

12-24-2004, 10:01 AM
IMHO certain guns I trust with 200 rounds of carry ammo through it and certain guns I would not trust with less then 1000 rounds through it. The guns I trust are the GLock's 26,27,19,23,30 The Sig's 228,229,239,220. Never had a Beretta
but I heard that they are very reliable and certain models of S&W like the 669,all the revolvers of course from S&W and some other semi autos from the same manufacturer.
I know that the gun GURUS are going to disagree with me but this has been my experience, you do not have to take my word for it and please don't. :)

12-24-2004, 02:51 PM
Maybe I'm just kidding myself but after polishing the feedramp on my new carry gun, I put 500rds of hardball through it and 100rds of the ammo I would be carrying in it. I found it was 100% reliable and decided to carry it after that. I have since put about 1500rds mostly of hardball through it during range visits and firearms courses. It has still been 100% reliable. I am a civilian so maybe if I was in LE, I would shoot more carry ammo in my duty weapon.

12-24-2004, 03:16 PM
Have to admit, when I got my latest pistol I expected absolute reliabilty given its source (Gunsite.) Put 200 rnds hardball, 50 rnds Corbon, 60 rnds Fed Hydrashock through it the first day I had it, started carrying it from that day forward. It's performed to my expectations so far, except for the time I had a poorly resized handload cause a fail to feed.

I've had another brand of pistol break a trigger spring after a few hundred rounds. Totally inoperable on the firing line during a friendly shoot off between four of us. Lost faith in it. Got rid of it.


12-24-2004, 03:39 PM
I am not quite sure of your exact question. Other members seem to understand it to be how many rounds before you consider a given pistol reliable enough to carry. I took question to mean what type of reliability would I expect from a given pistol, eg only one failure in 10,000 rounds. Anyhow, I will answer the first question of how I select a pistol and what I do prior to carrying.

1. Select a pistol with a good reputation for reliablity

2. Select a carry round with a good reputation for reliability

3. Fire 500 + rounds of ball thru the pistol

4. Fire about 200 rounds of carry ammo thru the pistol

5. During this time shoot a bit of limp wrist, weak hand, around barricades, etc

6.Put rounds in mag with nose down, out a little from back of mag - stuff that could happen in real life. Maybe even bang up nose of carry round bullet and see if it will feed.

7. Do a little work on draw fire, reload, etc and determine if any problems. I had a Kahr - worked fine when I took time to get good grip. However if grip was not perfect as in quick draw my thumb would often bounce up and engage slide release lever with rounds still in mag. Other people did not have this problem. But Kahr was not right for me, so sold it. This is why I would not confine reliability testing to bulleye, take your time shooting.

You said trigger spring broke and gun was useless. If this was glock I don't think so. If trigger spring broke I would guess you finish rounds in mag. To get going again you had two options maybe more: 1. with empty glock hold back trigger and rack slide 2. with slide locked back push trigger forward.

While I have not tried it with loaded gun, if you find glock trigger has not reset and glock is loaded should be able to get going using #1 above with loaded glock. Pointed in safe direction of course.

12-24-2004, 05:16 PM
It seems you also have to ask when a handgun stops being reliable. My Glock 23 fell apart on me at home when I racked the slide. It went too far forward. My first guess was the locking bar broke - I've seen it happen in class. When I took it apart I discovered the spring that holds the locking bar up is what broke, and Glock has a beefier spring that they install when you send your gun in for service.

I was pretty annoyed that the Glock service rep would not just send me a new one. I'm used to better service from Glock, and am wondering if they are falling down on the job.

My long winded point is that once you judge your handgun to be reliable, with use you have to change some parts to ensure it remains reliable. (My revolvers seem not to need this maintenance.)

12-24-2004, 07:25 PM
500-600 rounds through a gun without a malfunction would be sufficient for me.

300 rounds through a magazine without a malfunction is sufficient and possibly more important.

Charles Rives
12-25-2004, 06:35 AM
This is hard to quantify but I don't trust a pistol unless:
1) I can fire it limp-wristed without any reliability problems. My wrists might get hurt before I can use my gun. And
2) It will function reliably with fouling, dirt, and grit in the action and magazine.

Guns that function 100% but only when babied, kept in a sterile environment, and shot with perfect form aren't really reliable.


12-25-2004, 11:25 AM
I like 2000 rounds total FMJ+JHP.

Weak parts or springs will often not show themselves until around 1000 rounds. If there is a failure, it can then be replaced with higher-quality parts.

That second thousand with zero failures is the real confidence builder for me.

Also, and this is basic but I say it anyway, some "unreliable" pistols just need better magazine springs.

Joe Average
12-28-2004, 04:53 AM
I'm carrying a bug at all times just in case.

12-28-2004, 06:32 AM
For a wheel gun ,I'd say a couple of cyclinders full of your chosen carry ammo,with no hang ups. For a semi, I lean toward the more thru it the better, our duty guns all have a thousand rounds thru them before they hit the bricks. My Khar require a couple of hundered rounds more then printed break in..I like using hardball for breakin as its cheaper,and for me seems to smooth every thing in, after the weapons are running well I switch to JHP's for all other shooting

12-31-2004, 03:04 PM
I'm going to reinforce my earlier comment about maintenance.

I was at the range testing new sights on my 23. (Novak Half Ghost + 24/7 Big Dot front is a wonderful combination.) Towards the end of the session it slam fired a round, and the slide went too far forwards after cycling. The back tab of the guide bar/recoil spring assembly sheared off, releasing the spring. Somehow the slide and barrel disengaged the slide block and the slide assembly came off.

This recoil assembly has fewer rounds than the one it replaced, and a Glock service employee once told me one should last a lifetime. I'm starting to think 2000 rounds is the measure of a lifetime.

[I reload, so I suppose it is possible that I had a high primer that somehow got detonated when the slide slammed it into the barrel, and the resulting slightly early detonation might have caused the guide bar to break. But I have my doubts.]

What you are assessing with your initial testing is feed and function reliability with certain ammunition types. What you are not testing is the mean time between failures for all parts in the handgun. These failures will only show up with extended use, and you can either suffer them (perhaps at a worse time than at the range) or replace parts ahead of the failure, and hope the replacement parts last as long as the ones you replaced.

My GP100 does not have these problems.

Edit: This Glock has been through multiple Front Sight and Firearms Academy of Seatle classes.

01-01-2005, 10:53 PM
The Firearms Tactical Institute developed a reliability test for semiautomatic handguns. They published it in 1999. It can be found here: http://www.firearmstactical.com/briefs25.htm

A great deal of thought has obviously been put into this procedure, however, it strikes me as being insufficiently stringent as regards to reliability expected from a defense-oriented firearm (unless I am badly mis-interpreting something).

This procedure is setup to qualify a handgun and two magazines for carry. I will use a Glock 30 with the 10 round magazine as an example firearm. Skipping all of the detail, the basic procedure to qualify this gun is as follows:

Fire 100 rounds of FMJ slowfire.

Fire 176 rounds of FMJ using the following procedure: Load gun with a round in the chamber and a full mag. Slowfire till empty. Accomplish twice for each mag. [44 rounds] Load gun with a round in the chamber and a full mag. Start firing slowly and increase firing tempo so last few rounds are discharged at controlled rapid fire. Accomplish twice for each mag. [44 rounds] Repeat increasing tempo test with the gun held 90 degrees to the right. [44 rounds]
Repeat increasing tempo test with the gun held 90 degrees to the left. [44 rounds]
Fire 176 rounds of Personal Defense Ammo using the same proceedure as used for the 176 rounds of FMJ described above.

The gun must either fail to feed three time or fail to eject three times for it to fail this test. I would have a hard time accepting a gun for self-defense unless it was able to pass this test with zero failures to feed or eject.

Is there anyone here who knows more about this test and can comment on it? I would be especially interested to see if it had been developed with the assistance of a statistician. If so, what liklihood of failure does passing this test imply (1 failure per 100, 1 per 500, 1 per 1000, 1 per 5000)?


01-02-2005, 10:22 AM
I'd say the best reliability test is a 2-day training course.

You're a lot more likely to discover a reliability issue under training conditions than you would shooting over a bench.

In terms of numbers I'd say a couple hundred rounds is sufficient for a glock. I'd go higher if you're talking about a brand/model that didnt have a such a good reputation for reliability.

01-03-2005, 09:17 AM
Hi all, just thought I'd add my .02 to this discussion. I personally don't consider ANY firearm to be 100% reliable. Even Glocks. I've owned many and honestly can't ever remember having one failure with them. That said, to me this just means that one is overdue.

I put a lot of rounds through my carry weapons a the range (primary carry is a Glock 23, 26 for the BUG). I figure that a failure is more likely when I'm shooting 300 rounds at the range than it is when I'm in dire need of it. I have no massively researched and documented reason for this opinion, but it seems that probability would bear it out.

I'm more likely to notice a malfunction or that something "just doesn't feel right" and can take further steps to diagnose and remedy any problems. As such, I don't really have a minimum number of rounds that I put through a gun before I rely on it.